How a Wholesale Ordering System Works & Why it Matters
As manufacturers and wholesale distributors struggle to keep up with eCommerce giants, shrinking margins, and growing competition, many businesses are looking to increase efficiency wherever they can. One of the biggest areas of opportunity for efficiency gains is in the ordering and fulfillment process, signalling a need for more robust wholesale ordering systems.
In a time when information is easier to access than ever and everyone is constantly connected via pocket-sized devices, the idea that businesses are still writing orders on paper and manually translating and typing those orders into a computer seems patently absurd. But too many businesses today are in fact still using carbon copy order forms or only marginally more modern means of writing orders, such as PDF order forms, Excel sheets, or even emails, text messages, and phone calls fielded by customer service teams.
Replacing these fragmented ordering channels with a comprehensive wholesale ordering system eliminates the need for manual work, order errors, and fulfillment delays. Software-as-a-Service solutions are making it easy for wholesale distributors to invest in these efficiencies for their businesses with low barriers to entry and minimal cost and maintenance.
What is a Wholesale Ordering System?
A wholesale ordering system refers to eCommerce software that allows for online transactions to take place in the B2B space.
Various types of wholesale ordering systems exist, taking on many forms. Solutions in the wholesale market vary widely in terms of the industries they serve, the features they offer, and cost, making it a challenge to choose the right system for your business. For any B2B supplier, however, the ideal wholesale ordering system generally includes the following:
- Mobile ordering for field sales reps: Field sales remains an important channel in wholesale distribution. Sales reps are the customer-facing front lines of your business, who offer the personalized service and build the strong business relationships that help wholesalers retain customers in a time of increased competition and lowering prices. A wholesale ordering system, therefore, should include a tool designed for field sales reps to allow them to have smarter conversations with your customers, with access to customer order history, past notes, inventory information, automatically applied customer-specific discounts and pricing, etc.
- Web-based eCommerce ordering for buyers: Of course, it’s not always feasible for your sales reps to visit customers every week to place reorders. Your buyers need a way to place quick and easy re-orders at any time, without the help of a rep or having to call the order into your back office during business hours. A B2B eCommerce portal on the web will allow them to place orders at their convenience.
- A native mobile ordering app for buyers: While any B2B eCommerce offering includes a web-based eCommerce portal, very few include a native mobile application for customer ordering. A native mobile app would allow your customers to place orders on-the-go or at the shelf. This kind of convenience is a huge differentiator for wholesale distribution businesses. Making ordering quick and convenient means more frequent reorders and, most of all, fewer lost customers.
- A single admin hub where all orders can be managed: Your wholesale ordering system should include both sales rep and web/mobile customer ordering solutions so that all orders coming in through all channels can be managed in one place. You can also integrate your wholesale ordering system to your ERP (enterprise resource planning) or accounting system to sync orders automatically to your back office without the need for data entry, speeding up fulfillment.
- Features built specifically for B2B: There are many solutions out there claiming to be “built for B2B,” when in fact, they are B2C solutions retrofitted for B2B ordering. All too often, these solutions fail to meet the complex needs of wholesale distributors––things like customer-specific or customer-group-specific pricing and promotions, units of measure, quick and easy bulk ordering of products with different variants (like size or color), etc. A true wholesale ordering system should have been built from the get-go with the specific needs of B2B suppliers in mind.
- Features built specifically for your industry: Also ensure that the software vendor you choose has customers in your industry and has demonstrated they can accommodate the specific needs of that industry. A wholesale ordering system built for apparel suppliers, for example, may not have all the features that a food & beverage supplier needs.
Why is a Wholesale Ordering System Important?
A wholesale ordering system can have a greater impact on your business than simple efficiency gains like faster shipping and increased order accuracy.
Making ordering fast and easy for both your sales reps and suppliers can have the following additional impacts:
- More frequent re-ordering and increased average order volume
- Greater product discoverability
- Reactivation of previously dormant customers
- Improvements in customer retention
- More time for sales reps to introduce new products and concentrate on product education during sales appointments
- Stronger customer relationships
- Reduced backorders (by making it clear to customers and reps which products are in and out of stock)
- Additional marketing opportunities (connecting email campaigns and promotions with your B2B eCommerce portal to spark additional ordering, for example).
- Lower cost-to-serve with customers in more remote areas or lower order volumes and increased profit margins as a result
- Faster, easier ordering during key selling events, such as trade shows
A wholesale ordering system works by communicating with your back office systems to visually display customer-specific, product, pricing, inventory, and other data—in the most ideal format—so your B2B customers and sales reps can place orders with ease on the device of their choosing.
Thinking about implementing a wholesale ordering system for your business? Request a call with a Handshake specialist today to learn more about how our B2B-specific solution could work for your business.